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The Aim against the Rubber Game....or Slam!

How adept are you in the delicate art of sacrificing in Rubber Bridge, the form of bridge from which today’s hand arose? Rubber Bridge is not that common in this country, especially around club bridge, and only seems to arise for a comparative few in the National Rubber competition which,this year, attracted 100 pairs nationwide.

My own participation was brief this year and was not helped by the deal in question.

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South Deals
N-S Vul
W   E
4 3
A Q J 5 3
J 10 9 8 6 5
West North East South
Pass 2 NT ?  

 2NT is Jacoby, game force with spade support.

The opponents had a game but nothing below the line in pursuit of their second game. We were not vulnerable, thus a standard sacrificing situation at say Teams Bridge. Yet, at Rubber, how many down can you afford to go to save a Rubber when the very next deal may see the opponents breeze to an easy vulnerable game?

“Time for a tea break” you might say as there is always a change in fortune when that takes place. There was a break. There was a change..and not for the better!

You were not to know that. The opponents were definitely going to game this time as 2NT was Jacoby, game force with spade support. So, what action would you take?

Bruce Anderson “3NT: which must show both minors. With hearts and a minor, I would bid 3Heart-small and then bid the minor; given the vulnerability, there is lot of leeway here. And with a three suited hand, I would start with a take-out double.

A fit will see a cheap save against their likely spade game, with the possibility they bid on to the five level and go down. Partner may not fit well and have trump tricks in spades, but it is usually right to push the opponents around in this way.”

A nice concept but they had higher ambitions.

Matt Brown “3NT which should also be for the minors. I think jumping to 4NT is too much when we have some defence and a partner with an unknown amount of defence to 4Spade-small.

Michael Cornell “3NT” obviously minors. We could have a good dive against game or even slam but I want to involve partner. I do not want to commit to the 5 level by myself. Partner could easily have some good defence.

As we will see, 3NT left open an important bid for the opposition which others sought to shut off:

Nigel Kearney “4NT. It's harder at rubber as they can take their +300 and continue a rubber where they still have a 75% chance of winning. At Teams, probably 3NT is this hand type but I'm happy to bid 4NT with extra shape, a void, and good suit texture. Let them make the five- level decision without further information.”

Some acknowledgement of the extra points you are putting in their plus column.

Kris Wooles “4NT minors taking the opponents’ space and looking for a good minor suit sacrifice. Am very keen to stop the vulnerable game especially at Rubber!

Peter Newell “4NT.  I want to get both my minors into the picture So, the choice is 3NT (which cannot be natural given they are in a game forcing situation) or 4NT.  I lean towards the pre-emptive value of 4NT over 3NT but I am on the weak side…”

So, it is 3-3 as to how many no-trumps we bid at this point. I would love to have the casting vote but, perhaps with some benefit of hindsight, my vote would not split the tie.

What happened did not reflect too well on the no-trump bidders though, I suspect, on seeing the West hand below, those who only called 3NT would have expected their partners to have at least interrupted Blackwood with a 5Diamond-smallbid.

In reality, would/should West take the plunge and risk all with 7Diamond-small?

South Deals
N-S Vul
A J 8 7 5
A Q 8
K 7
Q 7 4
6 2
10 7 6 5
10 9 8 4 2
K 3
W   E
4 3
A Q J 5 3
J 10 9 8 6 5
K Q 10 9 4 3
K J 9 2
A 2
West North East South
Pass 2 NT 3 NT 4 NT
Pass 5  Pass 6 
All pass      


It was definitely not a good idea to allow South to discover how many aces, or key cards, their partner held. Or was it?

Two propelled South to small slam.

Worth 7Diamond-small? If you get everything right, you are looking at down 3, -500, excellent at Teams, or Pairs, better than conceding a game swing. Yet, at Rubber? And if you got it all wrong, you could be looking at 5 down, -1100. That is not a great sacrifice..and an even worse “phantom sacrifice”.

What? Phantom? That’s right. on most leads, South can wriggle away in slam but will ultimately have to concede a trick to the Club-smallK, along with a diamond, down 1.

What, though, would you have led against 6Spade-small after a 3NT or 4NT bid from your partner? You must have fingered that Club-smallK for at least a few seconds. Even if you put it to one side, in favour of the small club, you are not going to beat the slam as declarer has little to lose but put up the Club-smallQ on the lead of Club-small3 while South was not not troubled on the actual Club-smallK lead. Really, can you fault West?

Which brings us back to where we started. “What is the aim of the game”…”or the slam?” One might say “to beat it”. Looking at those East cards now, I am not sure that bidding 3NT or 4NT is best for beating the slam. I know what I would want my partner to lead. So, why did not give my partner an inkling by calling the suit at the 3-level, 3Diamond-small? North, for one, with Diamond-smallKx, would take fright. Your partner would have pushed on to the 5 -level. South may even have still tried for slam (maybe West bid 6Diamond-small?)..and neither club card would have come anywhere near West’s hand on the opening lead to a spade slam.

Small slam and Rubber for the opponents. Next year for me.

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If only….

South Deals
Both Vul
J 10 9 7 6 3
K Q 9 8 4
W   E
A 7 5
K Q 9 5 4
K J 10 3
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 2 
Pass 2  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  


Lead Heart-small6.

2Heart-small was 4th suit forcing, or so it appeared to South. North made no attempt to find a heart fit but raised to the 9- trick game.

If only you, or even better, your partner, was playing this deal in 4Heart-small, maybe not cold but a decent looking contract. Instead, partner raised you to 3NT. You can count 9 quick tricks if hearts break 3-2. However, at some early point when you test the suit, you discover East started with Heart-smallJ1032. Club-smallQ is not doubleton.

What to do?

See you on Sunday.

Richard Solomon

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